Hungary: Orban backers staging pre-election 'Peace March'

FILE -- In this Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 photo about one hundred thousand people gather in the square in front of the Parliament building during the "Peace March for Hungary", a demonstration organized by people to support the center-right Hungarian government in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012. (Peter Lakatos, MTI via AP)

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Organizers of a "Peace March" supporting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday they expect as many as 200,000 people to attend the event, set to take place three weeks before Hungary's April 8 national election.

Leaders of the Civil Union Forum said the ruling Fidesz party is supporting Thursday's march to parliament, where Orban will speak on a holiday commemorating the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

Organizer Andras Bencsik said the march in Budapest is meant to provide "an impulse" for a successful election, "so we can help Fidesz."

"We have to take this election very seriously — life or death is practically at stake," Bencsik, chief editor of the Demokrata weekly magazine, said.

Opposition groups plan several demonstrations across the city, with the two largest expected to be a student-led protest outside the State Opera House and a Peace March for supporters of the opposition announced by the satirical Two-Tailed Dog Party.

The Two-Tailed Dog Party has been around for over a decade and conducted several popular campaigns mocking Orban's policies. It is fielding candidates for the first time in next month's election.

Orban, a populist criticized for centralizing power and weakening democratic checks and balances, is seeking a third consecutive term. He and other Fidesz candidates have not participated in debates and most of Orban's campaign stops have not been shared with the news media.

Orban has made immigration his main campaign theme. He opposes mass immigration, especially by Muslim migrants, whom he says threaten Europe's Christian culture and lifestyle.

"If we become an immigrant country, there will be regression, decline and stagnation," Orban said last week at a business forum. "If ... we do not become an immigrant country, then Hungary will progress."

Orban's anti-migration stance has targeted the European Union, George Soros and, lately, the United Nations.

His chances of winning the election are being enhanced by a fragmented opposition, which has had a hard time agreeing to back a single candidate in voting districts where Fidesz could be defeated.

"If the opposition parties co-ordinate with each other, they can achieve some level of success," Gabor Gyori, a senior analyst at political research institute Policy Solutions said. "It may not be enough to get a majority, but it would definitively be enough to stop Fidesz from getting a two-thirds majority."


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